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Movie Monday: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Monday, August 4, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Matt Reeves
Genre: Science Fiction
Running time: 131 minutes
Released: 2014
by 20th Century Fox

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species.

Much like its prequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is heavily rooted in exploring the nature of mankind, both good and evil, and it takes this a step further by extending this to the apes as well. There are humans that seek peace with the apes and humans that view them as inferior creatures that should be put in their place. On the other side, there are apes that also seek peace with the humans and others that believe all humans are evil and should be wiped out.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is set in a world where humans are recovering from a deadly simian virus that nearly wiped out the human population, leading to wars and chaos. Ironically, the virus was created by a man who was seeking to cure his father’s Alzheimer’s, suggesting that mankind will bring about its own downfall. A small group of survivors has managed to create a home in the ruins of a city and are attempting to repair a hydroelectric dam to restore power. However, the dam lies in close proximity to the abode of the intelligent apes. This leads both parties to consider whether they wish to make peace with one another or go to war.

In comparison to the human refuge, which is focused on rebuilding, the ape city is just past its infant stages. It is built out of wood and complete with its own little school where Maurice the Orangutan teaches young apes the alphabet. The world building for the ape city interested me, particularly with how all the apes now speak through sign language (with the exception of Caesar and Koba, who are capable of speaking English).

The character that stood out the most was obviously Caesar, who is akin to a simian Moses, having liberated them from their captivity in the prequel and now founded an ape city. I was fascinated by Caesar. He is clearly noticeable even among all the apes by the dignified way he carries himself, and he is portrayed as incredibly wise. Caesar does not want war with the humans, as he is aware of the incredible losses the apes would suffer if they did so. Having been raised by a good man, he also knows of the goodness that some humans possess. That is not to say that all apes are good. Like humans, they have different personalities, and there are some that fight as strongly for war as Caesar advocates peace.

The humans don’t stand out as much and fall flat as characters. This is understandable since the film is primarily focused on the apes. Mostly, they serve to show the complex, varying facets of human nature. The leader of the human survivors is Dreyfus, who appears to be level-headed at first but proves narrow-minded he in advocating a human-ape war with the point that “THEY’RE ANIMALS!” despite having witnessed how intelligent Caesar is. This adds a theme of racism, as Caesar had just demonstrated an intelligence that rivaled if not surpassed many humans, yet Dreyfus is insistent on the apes’ inferiority. Contrasting Dreyfus is Malcolm, a man who is amazed by Caesar and truly respects him. While Dreyfus advocates war, Malcolm tries to establish peace with the apes.

I enjoyed this film thoroughly. While the plot is fairly predictable at points, it was still a memorable film, with the depth of the apes and their culture making it enjoyable and intriguing.

2 comments on "Movie Monday: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"
  1. I haven't seen this yet, but it's definitely on my list of summer movies to watch. I heard that it was a bit of a sausage fest (i.e. not very many female characters)? Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. While I never enjoyed the first of these movies, with Heston and the fake masks, I do like origin stories and it's intriguing how they've started with Caesar and how he liberated the apes and now how they're developing their own society, outside the human world.


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